“So, is he your boyfriend?” my friend asked, turning her head to the side and leaning in. I’d just recounted a lovely, snow-filled weekend I’d spent upstate with a man I’d been hanging out with for three months.
I felt unprepared. I quickly conducted an invisible assessment of the relationship in my head. Deep conversations: yes, and often. Exciting outings: yup, from hiking to art shows. Texting frequency: once a week. Post-coital cuddling: always. A “defining the relationship” conversation: nope. A desire for a “defining the relationship” conversation: absolutely not.
“He’s, well,” I searched for a word that didn’t seem to exist, “he’s my dating partner.”
Relationship definitions are an important thing for most people. They give us predetermined contexts in which to interact with the people around us. We like the neat boxes the history of romance has provided: date, fuck buddy, friend with benefits, one-night stand, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, life partner.
But the person I was seeing didn’t fit in any one of those boxes. Like so many other 20-somethings, I was in a series of noncommittal, nonexclusive casual romantic relationships with people I was both sexually and deeply emotionally intimate with, not to mention going out on dates with. They went on for weeks, months, even years at a time. They weren’t hookups or boyfriends. They were dating partners …
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